Chicken Meatball Soup

There are a few days – not many, but some – where I crave something sort of healthy. Sometimes it is because I have eaten deep fried hotdogs the night before. Sometimes it is because it is incredibly hot outside
Usually, it is because I have watched “Mystery Diagnosis” and am convinced that all my Fritos and Foie Gras will give me gout. 
When this happens, I try to use chicken instead of beef. Don’t worry, I still get the fat in there. 
But something like Chicken Meatballs is a perfect way to feel healthy yet satisfied.
 Start by sauteeing 2 diced yellow/Spanish onions until they are translucent. It’s important to do this over medium-low heat, or the outside will burn and the inside will be crunchy and biting. 
 When the onions are translucent, toss in a clove of minced garlic – more if you want to scare away that creepy neighbor who keeps asking if you want to check out the new Dungeons and Dragons game he got. 
 While those bubble away, might as well wash some mushrooms – let’s say 2 containers worth. I know you aren’t supposed to wash mushrooms this way, because they get waterlogged but you know what I say: My blog, my rules.
 This isn’t the place to be adding expensive porcinis or chanterelles. The mushrooms mostly add heft and umami flavor that is a background to the other stuff going on, so use plain old button mushrooms here. I just quarter them, because I like plump, juicy mushrooms in my sauce. If you prefer them sliced, then by all means go ahead. 
 Toss them in and let the whole thing sautee and steam away. Good time to add some crushed red pepper flakes and dried Italian seasoning too (sorry, but that combo of dried basil and oregano just screams comfort to me).
Now it’s meatball time.
Here are a couple of secrets to soft and juicy chicken meatballs:
 1)Fresh Breadcrumbs
Usually, I would just use plain old dried breadcrumbs, but when using an especially lean protein like chicken, which toughens up quickly, it helps the texture to use a softer breadcrumb. One loaf should be good for about 2 lbs of chicken – use Italian or French bread here, and if it’s a day old, that is ok. Just use the insides though, not the crust, and chunk it into big pieces. No tiny breadcrumbs required. 
 2)Replace the Fat
Chicken is lean…that is why we are using it. But, for Pete’s sake, you need SOME sort of fat in there to get the flavor going. I advocate a healthy dollop of mayonnaise – maybe 1/3 of a cup – to get the breadcrumbs moistened and add a dose of heart healthy fat in there! (it’s just eggs, people…they are healthy! And maybe a tiny bit of oil…)
 Now throw in a very healthy glug of Worcestershire sauce (more of that umami flavor going on) and some pepper. No salt needed – the Worcestershire has plenty of that. 
 Now toss in about 1.5 lbs of chicken and mix it all up so that the bread gets evenly dispersed throughout the chicken. You don’t want too many huge chunks of bread in the meatballs (though, truth be told, I love the soft and slightly mushy chunks of carbs that I find in these meatballs…dirty little secret! They are like the bread that is on the top of French Onion Soup…no one wants to admit that they love it but we ALL do).
By this time, your pot should look like this. The mushrooms have given off a lot of liquid, and that is okay! 
 You know what else is okay? Some WHITE WINE! It will add a deep and wine-y flavor to the stew. That is really the only adjective I can use. No one will know what you put in there, it will just have an earthy flavor that will echo the heartiness of the shrooms. About a cup should do ya. 
 Now it is meatball rolling time. I know how difficult it is to just keep on rolling what seems like THOUSANDS of meatballs and keep them all the same size, but remember – they have to be the same size to cook evenly, and small ones are juicier, since the inside cooks before the outside has time to dry out.
 Yes it looks like a science experiment, but in a while it will taste like HEAVEN!
 Pop the lid on, and in about 20 minutes…
 The meatballs should be cooked!
 Be sure to move them around with a spatula to make sure that all the meatballs are cooked – I cut into one to check that the inside is totally white. This is one meat I don’t want cooked rare
 Now dump in a large can of peeled plum tomatoes and…
a touch of tomato powder if you have it! I got this stuff from Oliviers & Co, and it adds the MOST intense, bright tomatoey flavor to whatever I cook. You can definitely use tomato paste, but that will thicken the sauce and make it sweeter – not necessarily a bad thing if that is the flavor and texture profile you prefer! About 1 Tbs. of powder or paste should do ya. 
Now, let the whole thing simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the aroma is so intoxicating you can barely keep your spoon out of the pot.
 Now, just grate some cheese directly into the sauce – about 1 cup. 
 I like Grana Padano or some similarly mild, nutty cheese since the flavor of the chicken is so delicate. This would be a great place to add a huge handful of fresh basil…if you are a good blogger and remember to buy it. 
But even without the basil, this is a hell of a meal. The meatballs are soft and incredibly moist, thanks to the fresh bread and the mayo (which you don’t taste at all). The onions are sweet, the garlic is a faintly pungent background, and the mushrooms are hearty and juicy. The tomatoes are acidic and bright, and the wine and cheese add richness. Serve it over pasta or polenta, or simply with a hunk of bread. It is thin consistency and as much a soup as a sauce. It is filling but not heavy, comforting but brightly flavored, seemingly indulgent, but healthy. 
And, don’t worry…this is a once in awhile sort of thing.
Tomorrow, bring on the pork fat. 

Comments

  1. Feisty Foodie says:

    Yum! Let's trade containers of soup, but my meatballs didn't come out so great though (it was my first time putting meatballs in soup, but I've already figured a few tweaks for next time).

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Feisty-you're on, girl! I want to try that CSA bounty!!